Friday, December 24, 2010

"This Shepherd Might Not Have Led Them...But He Certainly Funded Them..."

It's a season filled, not only, with sights and sounds and scents but, also, with names.

Kris Kringle.
Santa Claus.
Bing Crosby.
Clark W. Griswold.

And, of course, for those who recall the original, and still official, reason for the season...

Jesus Christ.

There is another name, though, that probably has escaped your notice through the years.

It is the name of a man whose invention has very likely been a large part of your Christmas tradition.

While, at the same time, being, in some measure, the "gift that keeps on giving the whole year through."

And if that's not poignant enough, how about the irony inherent in fact that this man who has become such a big part of our holiday lives is named Shepherd?

John Shepherd-Barron.

The "rest of the story" can be found here.

Thank you, John.

Merry Christmas.

This salute is for you.

Do you wish a receipt? Y/N

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"The Problem With Joe Six Pack Is...Well...The Six Pack....."

Verbose and opinionated minx that I am, it should come as no surprise that more than one friend/acquaintance/listener/reader along the way has suggested that I get into politics.

Admittedly, sometimes the "suggestion" comes in the form of something like "why don't you just shut the hell up and run for something".

But I digress.

And while it, just as admittedly, is flattering to think that something I've said has impressed people enough to make them think that I might be able to articulate and advocate their interests, I've known for a long, long time that tossing a hat into a ring wasn't my destiny.

I found out senior year of high school.

When I got back my S.A.T. scores.

The actual numbers long forgotten, suffice to say that their impact was felt in my freshman year of college as follows...

I was assigned to junior year level English.

And remedial math.

That pretty much ruled out me taking a run at running for something.

Because, while the old adage that "all politics is local" is true, I would offer you that there's an equally true adage riding shotgun.

All politics is mathematics.

As in, lowest common denominator.

I was reminded of that numerical nuance when I came across this story about the opposition to Michele Obama's support, and Barack Obama's signing, of legislation regulating nutritional standards in public schools.;_ylt=AuwglhpjeXjEzsGIfZulun62GL8C;_ylu=X3oDMTRlajhtOGNsBGFzc2V0Ay9zL2RhaWx5Y2FsbGVyL21vc3RhbWVyaWNhbnNvcHBvc2VtaWNoZWxsZW9iYW1hc2hlYWx0aHlodW5nZXJmcmVla2lkc2FjdARjY29kZQNyYW5kb20EY3BvcwMxMARwb3MDMTAEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yaWVzBHNsawNtb3N0YW1lcmljYW4-

Here's the phrase that thickened the plot for me.

According to a new Rasmussen poll, however, only 23 percent of those surveyed think the federal government should have a direct role in setting the nutritional standards for public schools.

This is, of course, the latest manifestation of the knee jerk reaction to any thing the Feds do to "infringe" on the freedoms, rights, prerogatives, yada yada of the notorious Mr. and/or Mrs. American People.

The very knees that delightful demagogues like Sarah Palin are counting on to get her a four year, option for four more, lease on a sweet little two story number on Pennsylvania Avenue.

What the knee jerkers are missing, and always miss, for that matter, is that pesky mathematical inevitability.

This country, and the government comprised of people that we freely elect to articulate and advocate for us, enacts legislation almost entirely on the basis of the lowest common denominator.

Or as its known more informally...

The really dumb ones.

No reasonably intelligent (now, there's an oxymoron waiting to happen) person can deny that the evidence is overwhelming that obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular are epidemic in this country, that kids are getting fatter and a fatter future means a more expensive future for everyone in the form of lost wages, health care costs, etc.

And no reasonably intelligent person with children is likely turning a blind eye or deaf ear to the physical condition of their kids or the nutritional requirements necessary to insure their kids a happy and healthy adulthood.

Legislation like the aforementioned isn't for those folks.

It's for the lowest common denominator.

You know, the really dumb ones.

The ones whose own lives are littered with extra crispy crumbs and powdered sugar sprinkles forming a light, but obvious, dusting on that treadmill that hasn't seen a pair of feet on it since it left the factory and whose own kids can probably recite the McDonald's menu from memory but wouldn't know a vegetable if it bit them on their abundant ample asses.

Put simply, the fat parents with fat kids who don't have the sense to take care of themselves or their own.

Or as they're more widely known.

The average Wal Mart shopper.

The knee jerkers who want to throw the chubby baby out with the bathwater by screaming "don't tread on me" are entitled to their resentment at being regulated but they're missing the big, big, I'm talking really big picture.

These laws aren't being written for them.

They're being written to account for the lowest common denominator.

And until some bright light figures out a way to write laws that serve all but only apply to some, those who don't need, want or deserve to be regulated are going to have to swallow the medicine as well.

You would think that intelligent people would understand that.

It's, like, two plus two, you know?

Then again, I had trouble with that one myself.

According to S.A.T.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Somewhere Over The Rainbow, A Star Still Rises In The East..."

First, and most obviously, this is not a "Christmas" song.

But at a time of year when a bright light shines on our humanity and we are moved in ways both beautiful and profound, I would offer that this is most certainly a song of the season.

Merry Christmas...and thanks, Eva.

Your gift continues to grace us all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Now, It's Time...To Say Goodnight...Goodnight...Sleep Tight...."

Spoiler alert.

Blasphemy is about to be committed.

I got my very first guitar, a Sears Silvertone six string acoustic, for Christmas in 1964. I asked(pleaded)for it, putting aside Tonka trucks and baseball gloves, solely because of Paul and his mates coming into my living room via Ed Sullivan that previous February night and changing the history of pop music.

Forty six years, several hundred songs, a couple of hundred demos and a couple of dozen songs recorded later, watching the video of this performance (and other recent live appearances), I find myself reminded not of that time and that hero but another.

Babe Ruth. After he left the New York Yankees.

Old, tired, still giving his all to a worshiping crowd and, simultaneously, eliciting huge waves of love, respect yet a soft, unspoken sadness at the figure of a childhood hero who was doing his best to swing for the fences with a spirit still willing but a flesh obviously weak.

And leaving legions of once young, now grown up, fans with a memory not of a bright, blazing star, but a dimming,faltering light.

Thanks for everything, Sir Paul...

...most especially making good on the promise that "a splendid time is guaranteed for all".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Hey...Seat 19D.... I Ain't Bill Withers, Okay?....Lean On Somebody Else...."

Old saying.

Your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.

This story about "to recline or not to recline" airliner seats caught my eye today.

Give it a quick read and then I'll share my two cents with you.

Ordinarily, this would be one of those stories that I would read, think about for a few minutes, ponder the possibilities and then put aside as I returned to back to back to back to back episodes of NCIS.

This issue rang a particular bell for me, though, because I just, a week or so ago, found myself knee deep (or more precisely, lap deep) in the issue.

Flying from Baltimore to Jacksonville the Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend on a plane that was full (holiday weekend, duh), I drew the shit out of luck short straw by ending up behind the single individual (I did a quick head/seat count and verified that I was the lucky winner of the "sitting behind the guy most likely to be thinking 'fuck you, I gots my rights' " passenger award) on the plane who felt the need to take full and extended advantage of his "right" to recline his seat to its full, non-upright and unlocked position. Never mind that he was seated in an exit row which meant that he already had a good extra foot or two of leg room in front of him. He apparently felt like his comfort level would be inadequate unless he availed himself fully of the chance to recline as far as recline could recline on the plane.

As a result, the back of his seat and the top of his head were easily within butting, not to mention spitting, distance of my own and any attempt on my part to utilize my seat back tray resulted in said tray essentially becoming adjoined to my abdominal muscles.

Apparently, the majority consensus of those polled, in a poll associated with the CNN story I attached here, is that being able to recline one's seat on an airplane is a "right" that they have purchased along with their seat space.

Here's my carefully considered weigh in on that opinion.


I don't travel all that often but, when I do, I never recline my seat. And it has nothing to do with whether I think I'm "entitled" to do so or not.

It has to do with the fact that regardless of the best intentions of those who designed the reclining airplane seat, the inevitable and indisputable fact is that,given the crammed in a clown car atmosphere of most medium range commercial airliners these days, it is simply a physical impossibility to recline a seat and not interfere with the comfort of the person behind. And since my well being and happiness in this life don't hinge on being allowed to fly the friendly skies at a forty five degree angle, I'm perfectly willing to spend the flight time in an upright and locked position, preventing the possibility that the passenger behind me will be forced to endure the emotional equivalent of an unwanted lap dance at thirty thousand feet.

It's called courtesy.

And, where I come from, courtesy trumps "rights" on pretty much every level.

And altitude.

Since relying on good graces and common courtesy from people seems, these days, to be, at best, a fifty fifty shot, I would suggest that the airlines who are bleeding red these days and go way out of their way to often verbalize how grateful they are to have us aboard because they know "we have a choice when it comes to air travel" have their maintenance folks de-button those seats and make air travel a level, and upright, playing field.

If I want to pay to have someone spend two hours in my lap, I know a much more enjoyable way to go about it.